HL Deb 19 May 1998 vol 589 cc1442-55

3.7 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Blackstone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 6 [Preparation of education development plans]:

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

moved Amendment No. 26: Page 4, line 11, after ("area.") insert ("specifying the targets for attainment for individual schools at key stage I, key stage 2, key stage 3, and key stage 4,"). The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 27. These amendments are deliberately designed to make more specific and more precise the exact manner in which the education development plans prepared by each school and each local authority will—and I refer to a later phrase in the clause—"raise the standards of education".

The Bill is entirely about raising the standards of British education throughout the system. The Government and those on these Benches share the same aim. We realise that things have not always been as right as they should have been in British education and we have all tried to make improvements. Our wish is that the children in our schools are taught in such a way that they leave literate and numerate as well as extended by the whole business of their teaching; and this from whatever area or background they come.

While I accept the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, in previous debates that regard ought to be paid to value added in assessing a school, I am sure that he will agree that value added is often hard to define although we both share the view that in part education development plans should pay some attention to that. But that is not in contradiction to what I propose in these amendments which deal with absolute facts that are at present available. The amendments suggest that any education development plan, both from the individual school and from the area plan as it is developed, should pay attention to existing facts and to the evidence available from existing national tests. That would actually help a judgment of performance.

I cannot imagine any other organisation in the country making a decision to improve standards which would not at least start from the existing achievement of the institution or organisation. This is very important. Both sides agree that the problem in areas of the same social mix, be it rich or poor, is that different schools are producing widely different results and therefore, in assessing their future performance in the education development plan, if we are to help the good ones to do even better and the worst to improve it would be worthwhile to look at what they have or have not achieved in the past.

As Members of the Committee opposite know, the education development plan suggests that by the summer of the year 2000 pupils in year six in primary, junior and middle schools should judge what they are going to achieve in their key stage 2 English and maths tests and so on; and similarly for GCSE and other results in secondary schools. Can there be any harm in asking that in deciding these targets we look at achievements in key stage 2 and more in previous years? We can then say whether they have set the right target and whether they have achieved it. In no sense are we hindering their performance.

The amendments propose a more specific and realistic approach to improving educational standards. It is unfortunate that Form 7, prepared by the local authorities, refers to people who receive free schools meals; it does not say what academic results the schools are achieving. These are practical amendments. There is no ideology in them. I would have thought that the Minister could say, "Thank you Lord Pilkington for your wisdom in suggesting these amendments to me. I am delighted to accept them." I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Thank you, Lord Pilkington, for explaining your amendments so clearly. The noble Lord says that his proposals are more specific and realistic than the existing provision in the guidelines for education development plans. I certainly agree that they are more specific. They require local education authorities to include in their education development plans specific targets for individual schools at each of key stages 1, 2, 3 and 4 and that the targets so specified—I am referring to Amendment No. 27—should be based on the prior attainment of individual schools.

We intend to have a small, manageable but challenging number of targets in the first three-yearly cycle of education development plans. The noble Lord rightly described the contents of the table of targets which is in Annex 1 of the consultation document. These will cover some but not all of all key stages. In other words, they will cover key stage 2 for English and maths and for schools with secondary pupils they cover results for pupils on the roll aged 15 at the start of the various years.

However, we do not want to overburden local education authorities or schools with a target-setting process as complex as that which the amendments provide. They would increase the amount of bureaucracy and decrease the amount of flexibility. Of course, if LEAs and schools want to provide further information and agree additional targets than those required under the education development programme, they can do so. There is provision for an optional annex to the education development programme. But the important point is that they should have choice to add to a limited but reasonable set of prescribed targets. I believe that many schools would find it a serious burden to meet as many targets as those implied by the amendments. To put them on the face of the Bill would make it impossible to change the targets that LEAs and schools should agree without further primary legislation. We are proposing that the Secretary of State should issue regulations on target setting under Section 19 of the Education Act 1997 which will enable him to specify appropriate targets, taking into account changing circumstances over the years. The amendments would impose targets which, even though perhaps appropriate at the outset, might very well be overtaken by education developments later on.

We are sympathetic to the idea of such important contextual information as pupils' prior attainment, and schools and LEAs will take that into account. It is only if we do take into account prior attainment that tracking and evaluating performance and rates of improvement are possible. So what is proposed in Amendment No. 27 is what will inevitably happen as part of the process of schools and LEAs agreeing, and subsequently monitoring, targets for pupils on the school side and targets for schools on the side of the LEA. What is necessary will be done: it does not need to be on the face of the Bill. I hope that the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Walton of Detchant

Before the noble Lord replies, perhaps I may say that in the very first briefing produced by the National Commission on Education, written very persuasively by Professor Andrew McPherson from Edinburgh, the crucial importance of value added was stressed and a great deal of factual information was provided to indicate the reasons why crude league tables relating to levels of attainment by pupils in individual schools were misleading. It was necessary to take full account of the educational attainment of the parents of the pupils, their social and ethnic background and many other factors before one was able to see in what way targets for educational attainment had been achieved.

I very well understand the point made by the noble Lord, in reply to these amendments, about not imposing a greater level of bureaucracy on local education authorities and the schools. But it would be a great reassurance to the educational establishment, if I may call it such, if there were somewhere within this very important clause on educational provision by schools and educational plans a comment to the effect that the important principle of value added will be borne in mind.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I was fully prepared to make exactly the points which the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, has made in response to what I hoped would be a more comprehensive group of amendments covering questions of ethnicity, gender and so on. But noble Lords who propose these amendments have exercised their undoubted right to have them debated separately. So it is true that we have had half a debate and not the whole of it. The noble Lord is entirely right in saying that these other issues are enormously important in assessing added value and we should not go on prior attainment alone.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Before my noble friend replies, perhaps I may raise a point with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I listened with care to what he said and I understood that the Government expect that every school will have targets such as those proposed in these two amendments and that the Government are looking for targets which relate to value added. If that is so, surely targets of attainment in relation particularly to value added are so important that, above all other matters that should appear on the face of the Bill, they come first.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is looking puzzled. I do not know whether he is really puzzled or whether he thinks that I do not know what I am talking about. It seems to me that it is crucial that every school should know what it is trying to achieve and that it should be able to measure whether it has done so in relation to the matters covered by these amendments. If that is so, and if the Government agree, why can they not put this particular matter on the face of the Bill?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I did not say that I expected that all schools and LEAs would provide all of the information required in the amendments. I said that the guidance for LEAs on education development plans includes, in annex 1, a table which provides for information at key stages 2 and 4. That information will be required. It is up to the local education authorities and the schools to decide whether they want to specify further targets. That is an option for them; it is not a requirement. We are anxious to ensure that education authorities and schools put forward targets which are meaningful to them rather than simply imposing the full range of central targets.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

So the Government do not expect that every school will set such targets. I am not talking about the education authorities. I do not see why a school's targets should not be known to the education authorities.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

They will not necessarily; they can do so if they want to. There are already differences between middle schools and secondary schools. We must be a little flexible in terms of what we require from schools.

Lord Peston

Perhaps I may ask my noble friend a question. It seems to me that his answers to the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, are right. The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, suggested another problem which has troubled me as I have read and tried to understand the Bill. I am not sure whether I have been successful. The point of having plans is to achieve something, and after implementing every plan the question is, "Did you achieve what you were attempting?". My difficulty when reading the Bill—I am sure that my noble friend knows the Bill much better than I do—is that I cannot find anything in it to cover that question. Before we leave this matter, could my noble friend direct me to the part of the Bill dealing with that? I had meant to raise this point later but, as my noble friend is dealing with the matter now, I must confess to him that I am a bit lost. I cannot see the point of having plans—I totally support them—unless at some point, say, every year, one says, "This is what I set out to do and this is what I have achieved". I cannot find the provision in the Bill that says that that must happen.

Lord Lucas

The noble Lord will find it under Amendment No. 31, which I hope that the Government will feel able to accept.

Baroness Blatch

I am not surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, cannot find that provision. One of the difficulties with this Bill is that it is not possible to find such provisions in it. Having read the background papers, my understanding is that each school will negotiate its targets with the LEA.

However, because of the answers that we have been given by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, I now do not understand precisely what will be expected of each school. Perhaps I may link that with the important point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant. He referred to understanding children's backgrounds and the difficulties that they may face in their families if, say, they are not supported at home or if their homework is not supervised. Any such information is critical to the teacher's understanding of a child and of how to get the best from him or her, building on the strengths and addressing the weaknesses.

I must advise the noble Lords, Lord Walton and Lord McIntosh, that ultimately one wants to know that people have achieved the level of ability needed to do their job. I refer, for example, to surgeons who operate on people, to accountants who look after people's accounts and to lawyers who deal with complex matters. Whatever value is added and whatever extraneous information is provided by the school and/or the local education authority in the course of providing information to the Secretary of State (who will either approve or disapprove of it), it is important to know what a child is achieving, whatever his or her background. It is important to know what a child is achieving, what he or she is able to achieve and what it is possible (in the form of a target) for the child to achieve in the coming academic year. The answers that we have received so far from the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, do not make it absolutely clear that we are looking for achievement targets and, based on previous achievement, that we are looking for reasonable, stretching targets for the following year in terms of a child's ability and curriculum outcomes.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I had thought that not only had I made that clear, but that the Bill makes it entirely clear. My noble friend Lord Peston is right: there is no point in having education development plans unless one is going to do something about achieving the targets. If my noble friend will look at Clause 7(5), he will see that it is the duty of the Secretary of State to keep under review the authority's proposals and their implementation. It is clear that implementation of an education development plan is an essential requirement of the process. I should add that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and her colleagues, propose that Clause 7 as a whole should be removed from the Bill, thus removing also the requirement for implementation.

Lord Peston

I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend, but perhaps he will clarify one point. Does "implementation" mean "outcomes" rather than, "trying to meet the plan"? My understanding of the word "implementation" is that it means, "We are trying to undertake our plan". It does not mean, "Having set the target that 98 per cent. of children will be able to read, we now tell you that 95 per cent. can read, which is less than our target, but more than was achieved last year". If we are to follow this line, that is the sort of information that we want. I am certain that my noble friend is right about what will be done. I am simply asking a rather technical question because I cannot see any provision in the Bill which requires that that must be done. I was hoping that there would be a simple non-political answer to my question, saying, "This bit of the Bill says that you have to state whether, and the extent to which, you have achieved your objectives". That was all that I wanted. It was a very simple question.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I do not take it as a technical question. Perhaps I may write to my noble friend about the construction of the Bill. The intention is that the achievement of the targets set out in the education development plans will be a matter of public report. One would not have education development plans unless that is what one intended.

Lord Lucas

Perhaps I may return to something that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said earlier and ask him to clarify it. I hope that I was not correct in understanding him to say that a lower level of value added would be acceptable from pupils who might come from difficult home backgrounds or difficult economic circumstances. Surely the education system should be about enabling pupils to achieve their potential, whatever the background from which they come. That may require greater effort when dealing with pupils who come from difficult backgrounds, but surely one should not modify one's targets and expectations of value added just because pupils may come from difficult backgrounds. One should put in greater effort. The noble Lord seemed to imply that matters such as social class and ethnicity should be taken into account when assessing a school's target for value added. Surely that is not right.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

If I gave the impression that the noble Lord has drawn, I gave the wrong impression. I am not saying that there should be lower expectations of value added because children may come from different backgrounds. It is simply that the value added is measured in a different way if they come from different backgrounds. We still have to have added value. That is what raising standards is all about. It is not a question of relaxation; it is a question of the way in which we realistically measure what can be achieved. As I said in response to the noble Lord, Lord Walton, that is a matter not only of prior attainment, but also of the various other social factors to which the noble Lord rightly referred.

Lord Peston

In support of my noble friend Lord McIntosh, the point that he makes is one of which both he and I have experience. Let us take the case of Haringey. When there was a large influx of people from Cyprus whose first language was not English those schools made prodigious achievements in teaching those children to read and write, although I am sure that their performance was less good in terms of the ghastly league tables that I detest than that of children from leafier suburbs. The whole point about value added is that perhaps only half the children can read, but half is a good deal more than nought compared with another school that has moved from 70 per cent. to 71 per cent. I hope that my noble friend does not remotely accept the notion that to take value added into account is to make the teachers' or school's life easier; if anything, it is to make it very much harder.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Lucas

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, is barking up the wrong tree. Quite rightly, one starts from prior attainment in measuring value added. If children enter a school less well educated or able the attainment of that school at the end of the day will be less but there will be value added and it is on that basis that the school should be praised. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, says that if two children coming into a school have equal prior attainment but one of them is poor and black and the other is rich and white the latter should be expected to do better. I do not believe that that is an acceptable policy for any government.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

I thought that my noble friend Lord Peston had made the issue entirely clear. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, appears to be attempting to cloud it. I am glad that the lobby of the Haringey Association for the Advancement of State Education has reasserted itself. The examples that he gives are entirely right. If pupils whose first language is not English come into a school in the middle of their school career one must adjust one's targets accordingly. That does not mean that one sets lower standards for value added, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, appears to insist upon. There is still value added although the targets are different.

Lord Lucas

I entirely agree, but that is what prior-attainment is about. One starts with the attainment, abilities and measured competence of the pupils. If they come in with no English half-way through their schooling that is taken into account, but that has nothing to do with ethnicity or social background. They are totally irrelevant to value added. If one introduces those factors one merely accepts the idea that people who are poor should be less well educated.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

No. I return to the point rightly made by the noble Lord, Lord Walton. There are all kinds of other factors that affect prior attainment. If one takes prior attainment which is the result of all these other factors as the only measure then one will not understand what it is the schools have to do and are trying to do. One must understand that, and that is why one needs the other measures of value added.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

I welcome the Minister's dislike of too much bureaucracy. I am delighted that he wants to reduce it, and I am sure that he will give me his support when later in the Bill I table amendments to that end. My heart is touched by his dislike of bureaucracy in face of this Bill.

Since this matter has attracted everyone's attention, I turn to the issue of value added and prior attainment. I remind the Committee—some Members appear to have forgotten the point that I made—that there may be two different schools in the same area. I can think of two schools in a deprived area of east London both with high ethnic pupil ratios. They achieve widely different results. Those schools are less than one quarter of a mile from each other. They achieve widely different results because one demands more and is better run than the other. Therefore, prior attainment is a very important element. I regret that the Government have paid no more than lip service to Amendment No. 27.

The noble Lord, Lord Walton, referred to tests. There are other tests to show that prior attainment is more closely related to subsequent attainment than any other factor. The factors listed in the studies were class, parents' education, ethnicity, social disadvantage and free school meals. Tests have shown that if one can get prior attainment right regardless of race and social background one will get subsequent performance. I do not want to harp on something that I have referred to many times, but the experience of the United States proves that. Its educational system in the first 30 or 40 years of this century ignored ethnic and social background and awarded citizenship on achievement in the educational system and achieved it. We need not be in contradiction. I regret that in the first part of this debate these old social arguments are coming up. There is no contradiction. We on this side of the Chamber suggest that attention be paid to prior attainment and that schools be demanded to show it. That is the most effective way of judging a school. By all means work out value added, but I endorse the views of my noble friend Lord Lucas that it must never become, as it has in the past, an excuse for the fact that some people from different ethnic backgrounds are less well educated. There is no necessity for that. I taught pupils in Africa for three years for whom English was a third language. They spoke two others: their tribal language and Swahili. They were as clever as many of the people I taught later in highly selective schools. It is enormously important that we judge that in the state system.

Although I shall seek leave to withdraw the amendment at this stage, I ask the Committee to pay attention to Amendment No. 27 because it may come back again.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 27 not moved]

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

moved Amendment No. 28: Page 4, line 15, after second ("for") insert ("all"). The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 28 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 39 and 40. Amendment No. 28 seeks to add the word "all" to the first sentence of Clause 6. The effect is to insert on the face of the Bill the Government's stated commitment to improve the education provision for and the educational achievements of all children, including those with special needs in the broadest sense of those words.

I raised this matter at Second Reading. On 5th May I received a letter from the noble Baroness the Minister reassuring me that the definition of "children" in this sentence specifically included children with special needs. That provides some hut not sufficient comfort. But at Second Reading the noble Baroness also recommended that we study the draft guidance, as it then was, on educational development plans. I have done so. It is true that there are many places in which the requirements placed on LEAs in constructing these plans cover or refer to pupils with special needs and/or pupils in special schools.

However, the phrase "all children" is used only once in the outline of the legal position in appendix 4 of the draft guidance. That makes no mention of special needs. We wish to see a commitment in education development plans to the development of education provision for all pupils including those who are sometimes left on the margins of LEAs' interests, concern and expenditure. I include among them sometimes marginal groups and the full range of children with special educational needs, including those with behavioural problems, pupils with special gifts, the physically disabled, who are sometimes indefensibly separated from mainstream education, and pupils in referral units. The draft guidance goes some way towards satisfying that imperative. It is possible that, following the end of the consultation period on the draft guidance, increased emphasis may be placed on the spectrum of special needs within it. Meanwhile, we should like to see the Government's stated commitment to SEN pupils reflected on the face of the Bill.

I turn next to Amendment No. 39 which provides that when the authority prepares its education development plan it shall have regard to the curriculum statement under the Education Act 1996. This is a probing amendment. We want to ensure that the education plan is linked to the curriculum statement rather than that the duty to draw up such a statement is abolished. The LEA would then need to have regard to the curriculum statement when it draws up the EDP. The purpose of that amendment is quite clear.

Finally, on Amendment No. 40 we are asking that: In the course of preparing an education development plan the authority shall agree targets with a school, to which the school shall have regard". Those proposals were in the White Paper and we wish to reintroduce them into the Bill. We need an explanation from Ministers as to why the requirement to agree targets with schools has been dropped although it was proposed in the White Paper. It is possible that the effectiveness of EDPs will be reduced if schools can ignore them. Equally, it is more likely that schools will ignore them if there has not been a reasonable discussion and agreement following that discussion. I beg to move.

Baroness Seccombe

The question of special needs has been raised and it is always very moving in this House when the noble Lord, Lord Rix, and other noble Lords refer to special needs. However, I am particularly concerned about a group of children which the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, referred to, but more or less in passing rather than in emphasis; that is, very gifted children. We always think of children with special needs as those who do not have the talents which many others have. But in this Bill, there is very little about gifted children who are, after all, the high fliers of the future. That is something that we should always keep before us.

3.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

As the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, said, Amendment No. 28 would define the children in relation to whom LEA education development plans are to apply as "all children" in an authority's area. I have seen the letter which my noble friend Lady Blackstone sent to the noble Baroness on 30th April. The second paragraph of that letter states: You asked whether the definition of "children" in Clause 6 of the Bill concerning education development plans specifically included children with special educational needs. I can confirm that it does". We cannot be any clearer than that. We take on board the noble Baroness's concern that no child should be overlooked under an education development plan. In fact, Clause 6(3) sets out the definition. For the purpose of outlining the scope of an education development plan, that part of the Bill defines children as "persons of compulsory school age", that is five to 15 inclusive. "(whether at school or otherwise)", which includes those being taught at home, for example, and, persons of any age above or below that age who are registered as pupils at schools maintained by the authority". In other words, it is all those children that the amendment is concerned to include.

There is one practical effect of the noble Baroness's amendment. It would make local education authorities, through their plans, responsible for privately-educated children in the areas. That is certainly not what we intend because clearly, local education authorities could not meaningfully discharge that responsibility although we envisage that, where information is available, LEAs will take account of the performance of local independent schools in drawing up their targets and school improvement programmes. We welcome and fully endorse any voluntary co-operation between the state and private sectors in promoting educational attainment.

Amendment No. 39 would require LEAs, in drawing up their EDPs, to have regard to the written statement of policy on the secular curriculum that every LEA is presently required by law to have and to keep up to date. Our intention in the Bill is to repeal the requirement for LEAs to produce a curriculum statement. That requirement predates the introduction of the national curriculum and was intended as a tool to promote consistency in the school curriculum across the country. With the establishment of the national curriculum the requirement is now redundant and it would not be right to include it in an education development plan. Leaving it in would create a duplication and an unnecessary burden. Of course, if individual authorities wish to have a curriculum statement, there is nothing to stop them doing so.

Amendment No. 40 is a rather important amendment because it would work only on the assumption that LEAs will be able to impose targets on schools. We have made it clear that individual school targets are the responsibility of the school. We believe that the target-setting exercise between LEAs and schools should be a co-operative effort, involving a full exchange of views in agreeing appropriate performance targets. Local education authorities are responsible for encouraging schools to raise their standards and setting out in their EDPs how they will help schools to do so. But the schools must have the lead responsibility for their own improvements and should be accountable for their own performance. LEAs are responsible for their part of the bargain: how well they support the schools. Where it is not possible for schools and LEAs to agree targets, the EDP should record the disagreement.

I believe that the noble Baroness will agree, on reflection, that that is better than taking responsibility from schools for their performance while giving LEAs an important role in challenging school targets. Our proposal strikes a proper balance between the rights and responsibilities of LEAs and schools. On that basis, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Peston

Perhaps I may ask my noble friend for some slight clarification of his answer. He says—and it seems to be clear from the Bill—that children means children. In other words, we do not need the word "all" and, indeed, the word "all" may be unhelpful. He then said that included in that is a sub-set of children; namely, those with special educational needs.

Does it then follow that, without writing the words "special educational needs" into this part of the Bill, the plan must clearly provide targets and there must be a plan to encompass those children with special educational needs? In other words, it seems to follow logically from my noble friend saying that we do not need the amendment that if, the plan did not include what was required for children with those needs, it would not be acceptable. Am I right to interpret his answer in those terms?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

It would not be a proper plan for all children in the area unless it provided for those children with special educational needs.

Baroness Blatch

I understood the noble Lord to say that Sections 370 and 374 of the Education Act 1996 are to be repealed or will not have effect as and when this Bill receives Royal Assent. In that event, what curriculum is to be regarded in the drawing up of those plans? It seems to me important that if there is not to be regard to the national curriculum, it should be made clear what is to be in its place.

Secondly, education action zones are to be a great factor in many parts of the country if the Government carry through their policy on education action zones. They will have the power to disapply the national curriculum and can therefore put another curriculum in place. At this stage, none of us has any idea what that may be because it will be a matter for the Secretary of State and the action zones to determine what will be the substitute curriculum.

Are the action zones exempt from that process of drawing up education development plans? I understand that they are not. In that case, how on earth will an LEA take into account the relaxing of the national curriculum as we have all come to understand it, which means a possibility of different things in different schools? Moreover, how do the LEAs take into account the action zone's curriculum?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

There are two parts to the noble Baroness's question. I can confirm that it is our intention to remove the curriculum statement requirement from the 1996 Act. I hope that that is entirely clear.

The noble Baroness's second question was about education action zones. She talked about them. It may be better for us to discuss those when we reach Clause 10.

Baroness Blatch

I reject the answers to both those points. First, in the event of the repealing of those parts of the 1996 Act, I asked what curriculum LEAs would have to have regard to in drawing up the EDPs. They must have regard to something going on in those schools. Secondly, as regards education action zones, I shall be happy to discuss these when we reach that point in the proceedings. However, at this stage, there is a read-across between the preparation of EDPs and the existence of EAZs in those authorities. That does not form part of the four clauses which appear later in the Bill. Therefore, in the context of EDPs, it is important to know whether they are exempt from that process. If they are not exempt, we need to know how the EDP clauses in the Bill will work in relation to education action zones.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the requirement for a curriculum statement will indeed be replaced by the national curriculum. There is legislation, both primary and secondary, on the national curriculum. On the question of education action zones, the answer is no. The schools in the EAZs will not be exempt from the requirement to produce an education development plan.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

I entirely agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, had to say about the particular attention that should be paid to the needs of people with exceptional gifts. Indeed, it is a theme which I have often pursued, though in different chambers from this one. I am also most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, for teasing out some of the detail of the Minister's reply on the question of gifted children.

Having listened to the interchange between the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and the Minister, I must say that I am now rather confused as to the situation with regard to curriculum status. I did not think that the Education Act 1996 came into being before the national curriculum; indeed, I rather thought that it happened considerably after the national curriculum was introduced. Therefore, I did not understand the Minister's original reply. Moreover, I did not manage to achieve a better understanding of the situation from following the interchange between the two speakers. In the circumstances, I believe that we shall have to return to the matter at a later stage, when I have had the opportunity to read the Hansard report of that interchange and been able to reconsider the matter at greater length.

As regards Amendment No. 28, I believe that here, too, we shall need to reconsider the question. I do not believe that we shall manage to have the word "all" introduced into the Bill, because I have referred to the matter twice now in debate and have twice been turned down. Indeed, the letter from the Minister was pretty firm in that respect. However, there may be another more suitable way of ensuring that concern for pupils with special educational needs is expressed on the face of the Bill. If so, we may well return to the matter. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Whitty

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

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